Article in an IEEE Publication, of All Places

I have a detailed article on H-1B and “staple a green card to their diplomas” proposals in the July issue of Computer, a magazine published by the IEEE Computer Society.

I’ve been quite critical of IEEE-USA on the H-1B issue over the years. After long, active opposition to foreign worker programs, the organization made a U-turn in 2000, under pressure from the IEEE parent organization, which is dominated by corporate and academic people with vested interests in H-1B and so on. They (IEEE-USA) then started pushing Staple a Green Card as an alternative to H-1B, one that I consider just as harmful, and one on which they have refused to seek member input.

I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when Hal Berghel, a columnist for Computer, asked me to write an article for the magazine. Bob Charette, a contributing editor for IEEE Spectrum who has written an excellent article debunking the myth of a STEM labor shortage, was also supportive.

So, it’s nice to see that, in spite of the actions of IEEE-USA, IEEE is not a monolithic organization, and is allowing some dissent.


33 thoughts on “Article in an IEEE Publication, of All Places

  1. Very good article, Norm. Kudos.

    But I still have some comments.

    >For example, the mean wage for the category
    >of Applications Software Developers is $123,900 in California
    >but only $99,830 in New Jersey

    Well, the average must be super-high in Silicon Valley, there are very few application software developer jobs in Los Angeles that pay even $120k, and certainly not enough to raise any average to that level when plenty of lower-level jobs pay well under $100k. All these hot “code camp” graduates are being hired instead, ask after their wages. My take is that wages average even lower in San Diego, btw.

    On another topic, I think the premium for “cloud” talent has already vanished, if it ever existed. Again, it might be super-high within Google and Facebook for a few bleeding-edge hackers, but little (none) of that makes it to Los Angeles, the culture that supports it does not exist here. I like your argument, but I’ll bet it would be hard to find supporting numbers in the real world. These kinds of premiums tend to be very short-lived, and there are periods when none is really hot.

    Your article is clear, it is diplomatic, it makes and supports an argument.

    But …

    … then you very nearly give it all away in the very last sentence:

    >Current provisions for such workers—the O-1 work visa
    >for outstanding talents, and for green cards the fast track EB-1
    >and National Interest Waiver categories— should be expanded

    Who says they should be expanded, who says they could be expanded other than by lower standards and making a farce out of them? Plenty of people will jump on it for just those kinds of reasons.

    Would have been nice to mention the social security waiver on the OPT, but I suppose it would have broken your flow. Anyway you already argued that it should be dropped, so I guess you can hold it in reserve, for your followup article.


    • Thanks for the comments, Josh.

      I was up against a strict word count limit, so I didn’t elaborate on some points. One of the points I could have gone into (and did in my old Univ. of Michigan J. of Law Reform article) is the pay differences between sectors.

      The tech sector does tend to pay more than the firms you work with, say the banking sector. The reasons for this are complex, but one of them is that the tech sector is simply more anxious to hire, due to issues of stock price etc.

      I have written before that the “visas for the outstanding” categories could be expanded, as arguably they are a bit on the side of being overly strict right now.

      I completely agree on your point about cloud computing. I’ve been critical about cloud before, and by the way, have noted that it is nothing new, just a variant of the old companies called “service bureaus” in the 1980s.


      • >O-1

        I am not aware that I have ever worked with or met anyone in the US on an O-1 visa. I’d be curious to know if any of the Silicon Valley firms ever use them, to what extent, and at what pay levels. I would hope that anyone who really qualifies for an O-1 would be paid at least 200% of the prevailing wage (and if that’s not in the law now, I hope it would be in any “expansion”) … maybe 300%, maybe (much) more. If there are more of those on the planet, sure, let’s grab all we can. But frankly my guess is that this goes beyond the purple squirrel and right on into the purple unicorn category, and maybe we have all the purple unicorns we need and more to the point all we are going to find.

        >service bureau of the 1980s

        see:The Challenge of the Computer Utility Hardcover – 1966
        by Douglas F. Parkhill (Author)
        Note that this was published before even the Corbato timesharing algorithm, … ok, I guess it wasn’t, Corbato was apparently circa 1962.

        Good old James Martin used to write about such things as well, I believe in the 1970s.


        • Last year I wrote a letter in support of someone with really outstanding talent for an O-1 visa for a Silicon Valley firm, and he did get it. I don’t know how much he is making. I also know someone, a personal acquaintance whose talent level I don’t know but seems very high, get turned down for O-1 in SV a few years ago.


        • >>>> if that’s not in the law now

          It’s not in the law now. In fact, there is absolutely no minimum wage requirement today for O-1, which makes it very similar to the much abused L-1.

          >>> provisions for such workers—the O-1…
          and National Interest Waiver categories— should be expanded

          Not changing the current law (in terms of per country greencard caps or increasing a very steep salary requirements for O-1/H-1/etc) and advocating for ‘loosening’ of O-1 will only water it down and make O-1 no different from L-1/H-1/F-1 for employers to utilize another way to bring in people from these populous nations. Likes of will pounce on such ‘recommendations’.

          Bottomline is that all the “discussion” anyone is having today about greencard/indentured workforce is only for folks with nationalities from ‘populous’ nations subject to country caps. For everyone else [on any alphabet visa/any other country under the annual greencard limits], it’s pretty much a “staple-a-greencard” and that too [almost on] “arrival” — at which point, it becomes a moot point.


  2. > Bob Charette, a contributing editor for IEEE Spectrum who has written an excellent article debunking the myth of a STEM labor shortage, was also supportive.

    As it happens, I ran across this article and posted a link to it at as item #10. It was the 10th of the first 20 references that Google returned when searching for “shortage of STEM-related workers” (without the quotes). I was searching for that because it was a phrase used by Representative Mike Honda in a phone-in town hall that I attended on Wednesday. He answered a question on H-1B visas and I transcribed the question and answer at .

    In fact, Honda’s entire answer depended heavily on the assumption that there is a STEM shortage. He seems to say that, because there is a STEM shortage, tax incentives for U.S. companies are not required. Those companies are hiring all qualified U.S. graduates (and, presumedly, U.S. workers) and are hiring foreign workers simply to cover the shortfall. This implies that whatever incentives are required are needed to motivate university students to go into STEM, not to motivate companies to hire current U.S. students and workers.

    I also included a link to Honda’s recorded answer. If anyone should see any mistakes in the transcription, let me know and I’ll fix them. That includes four places where I inserted ??? because I couldn’t make out one or more words.


    • Thanks for recording, and writing up the transcript. There are two important points in the details of what he says.

      First, he says there are more job openings than graduates. This is almost certainly a reference to the statistic Hillary gave the other day, something like 1 million IT new job openings but only 400,000 new CS grads.Those of you out there who are big critics of H-1B, do you know what is wrong with his statement?

      Second, he talks about his son getting a job in aerospace right after graduation. Do you know what is wrong with this statement?


      • > First, he says there are more job openings than graduates. This is almost certainly a reference to the statistic Hillary gave the other day, something like 1 million IT new job openings but only 400,000 new CS grads.Those of you out there who are big critics of H-1B, do you know what is wrong with his statement?

        Is it that this does not factor in the 85,000 annual H1-B visa allotment and doesn’t count other visas and H-1B visas that are exempt from the cap?

        > Second, he talks about his son getting a job in aerospace right after graduation. Do you know what is wrong with this statement?

        Is it aerospace is not as affected by H-1B visas as are computer-related jobs? Page 13 of the Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers at lists that 64.5 percent of all H-1B beneficiaries in 2014 were in computer-related occupations and only 9.2 percent were in occupations in architecture, engineering, and surveying. Also, I worked in aerospace just before 1995, the year when Honda’s son graduated. There were very few foreign workers and no H-1B workers at our company. The main reason is likely that most aerospace jobs involved with the government require a low-level clearance. I believe that these were not available to H-1B workers.


        • Concerning the second flawed statement, yes, aerospace tends to have very few H-1Bs, due to the need for a security clearly. BUT the statement is even more flawed because the biggest impact of H-1B, as I always say, is on the Americans over 35, not the new-graduate Americans.

          As to the first flawed statement: What is Honda/Clinton counting as “IT”? Most IT jobs, say installing Word in a secretary’s PC, aren’t the type filled by H-1Bs. Second, most software engineers do NOT have CS degrees; they come from math, physics, econ, business etc., and many don’t have degrees at all.


          • > Concerning the second flawed statement, yes, aerospace tends to have very few H-1Bs, due to the need for a security clearly. BUT the statement is even more flawed because the biggest impact of H-1B, as I always say, is on the Americans over 35, not the new-graduate Americans.

            Yes, that was something that I noticed about Honda’s answer. There was no mention of older workers, just new graduates.

            > As to the first flawed statement: What is Honda/Clinton counting as “IT”? Most IT jobs, say installing Word in a secretary’s PC, aren’t the type filled by H-1Bs. Second, most software engineers do NOT have CS degrees; they come from math, physics, econ, business etc., and many don’t have degrees at all.

            Yes, I just have a math degree and have been working in computers for over 30 years. In any case, I noticed some strange things in trying to trace back the 1 million IT new job openings but only 400,000 new CS grads claim. At , Hillary states:

            …and by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer-science related jobs in America, with only 400,000 computer science graduates to fill them.[5]

            Following is the source:

            [5] Nager, Adams and Atkinson, Robert, “The Case for Improving U.S. Computer Science Education,” The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, May 2016. .

            On page 3 of the referenced ITIF pdf is the following statement:

            In 2011, projected that the economy would add 1.4 million computing jobs by 2020, but educate just 400,000 computer science students by then. 9

            And following is the source:

            9. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook (computer and information technology occupations, 2012;
            accessed March 31, 2015), (author’s calculation; removed math and stats jobs);
            “1,000,000 more job than students by 2020,”, accessed April 1, 2015, ;
            “Solving the Diversity Dilemma, Changing the Face of the STEM Workforce” (Change the Equation, February 2015), 0FINAL%206.2015.pdf;
            Adams B. Nager and Robert D. Atkinson, “Debunking the Top Ten Arguments Against High-Skilled Immigration” (Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, April 2015),

            The link is a simple graph with the 1.4 million and 400,000 numbers but with no indication of its source. In any event, the Wayback Archive at shows that this was posted on December 9, 2013. The report above says that the projection was made in 2011. So why are we using a 5-year old projection, especially in a Presidential campaign?

            I did also notice that ITIF who repeated this projection in their May 2016 report have Orrin Hatch and Chris Coons as Honorary Co-Chairs (along with Anna Eshoo and Darell Issa). Hatch and Coons were among those who introduced the Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act of 2015. I suspect that ITIF just used the 2011 projection because it served their talking points. What I don’t understand is why Clinton’s campaign is parroting this study. Did anyone in the campaign attempt to trace back the sources?


          • I hardly think Hillary is in a position to comment meaningfully on IT jobs, including competently and legally running Exchange servers.


          • I recently wrote an article for submission to 60 minutes that they will most likely never see.

            I don’t like tooting my own horn, but I needed an example to finish the article up with so I used my own history and finished with this.


            I am one of the best analysts on the market and I haven’t had steady work since 2003 and no work from Aug 2010 until Feb 2016.

            Why do I say I am one of the best?

            Because I understand:

            The systems side, aka the hardware side
            The business side, aka the business processes.
            The software side, aka software development
            And I have the skills to work with the Ivory Tower group or the shipping dock
            And I specialize in bridging the gap between the business stakeholders and the IT department
            I have had numerous contracts as a Systems Analyst.

            Which was the most requested job occupation in 2015 as you can tell by the chart above showing which hunting licenses American and Foreign Companies were requesting in 2015.

            So tell me, am I unemployable because of my age (58, and got forced out around 45)?

            Or am I unemployable because I an not a H-1B?

            Or am I unemployable because even though I have the skills, I went into the military instead of college?

            Trust me, I am not the only one going through this.

            For those that have the time, I urge you to read this article as it shows the 1,2 combination of job offshoring and importing non immigrant guest workers and shows the relationship between our businesses investing in America and why our recessions happen.

            And most importantly it questions the degree that the non immigrant guest worker uses to disqualify the less credentialed Veteran like myself



          • For the most part, the age issue is the H-1B issue and vice versa. There is also the problem of the gaps in your re’sume’, but that in turn stems from the age/H-1B problem.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. They do allow opposing viewpoints, but where the rubber nits the road, they have done much to advocate for H-1b in industry and especially in academics.


  4. I traced back the sources of the 1.4 million and 400,000 numbers a bit further and it just gets worse. The graph containing the numbers can be found on the first page at . It gives its sources as College Board, Bureau of Labor Statistics, NSF. Since they don’t provide links or more specific information, it’s not possible to trace it back further. However, I did find more disturbing references to these numbers. A December 13, 2013 post on the White House web site at contains the following statement:

    >>> The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer-science-related jobs available and only 400,000 computer science graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs.

    Note that the statement seems to say that the BLS projects both numbers. In fact, the 40,000 number appears to come from the NSF (National Science Foundation). Stating that both numbers come from the BLS is highly misleading in that it implies that the BLS did the due diligence to ensure that the numbers are comparable. Instead, it appears that the post makes the common mistake of combining two numbers from two different sources which are not comparable (for reasons explained below).

    I also ran across a November 19, 2012 report from the Economic Policy Institute at which states the following about a 2012 report from Microsoft:

    >>> Microsoft uses Bureau of Labor Statistics projections to claim that from 2010 to 2020 there will be an additional “1.2 million job openings in computing professions that require at least a bachelor’s degree” (Microsoft 2012, 6). Microsoft warns that since only about 40,000 Americans graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science each year, many of the 120,000 projected job openings in computing occupations each year will go unfilled.

    The EPI report goes on to state that “Microsoft’s assumption that only 40,000 CS grads per year will result in tens of thousands of computer-related jobs going unfilled is contradicted by all the basic, publicly available data.” It also states the following:

    >>> Professor Norman Matloff of the University of California, Davis, recently conducted a similar analysis of data from the NSF’s National Survey of College Graduates, which showed that “only 40.2% of those with Software Engineer, Programmer or Computer Scientist titles came to the profession from a CS degree” (Matloff 2012, 5). It is important to note that neither of these data sets includes workers with less than a bachelor’s-level education; as Matloff mentions in his paper, many titans of the tech world, including Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, and Mark Zuckerberg, do not have a college degree in any field.

    In any case, the Microsoft report is at and it states the following at the bottom of page 3:

    >>> As one recent study predicted, between 2010 and 2020, the American economy will annually produce more than 120,000 additional computing jobs that will require at least a bachelor’s degree,4 but the country’s higher education system is currently producing only 40,000 bachelor’s degrees in computer science annually.5

    Following are the two sources that it gives:

    4 This estimate is based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ occupational employment and job openings data, projected for 2010–2020. Available at .
    5 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Available at .

    Note that even Microsoft is saying that the jobs number comes from the BLS but the 40,000 students number comes from the NCES. Going to the latter link gives a list with “NCES Degrees Awarded by Degree Level and Field” and pressing the View button gives a table that lists 150,229 degrees for Computer Science in 2014. This includes 56,130 Bachelor’s, 24,635 Master’s, 1,935 Doctorate, and 37,643 Associate’s degrees. Hence, Microsoft is only referring to the Bachelor’s degrees and even this number is now projected to be much higher.

    In summary, all the evidence shows that the 1.4 million and 400,000 number are totally out of date and not comparable. The latter number unexplicitly includes only Bachelor’s degrees for Computer Science, seemingly assuming that those with higher degrees or Associate degrees in Computer Science or other STEM degrees cannot work in the field. The White House needs to pull these numbers off of it’s web site and start checking the sources of the numbers that it posts. Hillary’s campaign needs to do the same.


    • Many individuals with degrees in other than “computer science” work in IT. The committee working on computing curriculum lists programs for:

      Computer Science
      Computer Engineering
      Information Systems
      Information Technology
      Software Engineering

      In one IT workgroup I was in many years ago, I remember people with degrees in math, physics, electrical engineering (before there were ECE programs), and English as well as computer science. I know many people without 4+ year degrees but graduates of community college, vo tech and the military in the field. Some of the listed BLS jobs do not require 4 year degrees;. Some jobs can be done by bright high school students; one needs to look only at programs such as FIRST and its clones to be impressed by the accomplishments of a bunch of teenagers. While a job requirement may not be a 4 year degree, those employed in that title may have bachelors or higher degrees so one cannot attribute a job class with a specific education requirement to have only individuals possessing that educational level in that classification..

      I find the computer jobs BLS projections do not reflect the actual status because of the manner in which they are tallied. One needs to look not only at NCES bachelors holders in “computer science” and “information technology” degrees to get the complete picture of available workers. Unfortunately, I know of no study which tallies the participation in the BLS computer career categories for other degree holders by either degree program or level.


  5. > It’s like the Zavodny figure, acquiring a life of its own. If you want a handy source for countering the claim, see Daniel Costa’s article at

    Yes, I just ran across that paper in my googling. So it appears that the claim may have started at Microsoft though the 1.2 million jobs was updated to 1.4 million at some point. What I found especially disturbing is that both numbers are on the White House web site at and that post seemingly states that they both came from the BLS. Also, the Zavodny 2.6 number is still posted on the White House web site at . They really need to pull those posts and start checking their sources if they don’t want to lose all credibility.


    • Hillary will be making public appearances in the election campaign, hopefully including town hall meetings. People who disagree with her on the H-1B issue need to ask her questions. She will be able to deflect almost any question, except maybe for this one: “Sec. Clinton, how are you? I have the following question, and I will like a straight, frank answer to it. You say there is a shortage of STEM workers; have you made any attempt to meet with the many economic researchers who disagree with that?”


      • Arguing with Hillary Clinton is a lost cause unless you just want some airtime or mention in the press. She’ll bob & weave and leave you with a tangled mess of words – mostly rhetoric and lies. It’ll be like that meeting at the table with the West Virginia coal miner who asked her why she said that she’s going to put coal miners out of business. She lied her way thru that one too. Not to mention all the lies about her emails (that she did not send classified info on her server, that she only used one device, etc) that she said while under oath.


        • The questioner needs to ask the question in such a way that any evasiveness on her part is obvious to the audience. I’d suggest, for instance, ending the question with “And again, please note that I would like an answer to this specific question, not a speech on education, competitiveness etc.”


      • Yes, it helps to have a good question ready, one that is simple and direct enough that it is hopefully difficult to deflect. By the way, I checked the source given in the Microsoft report for the 120,000 jobs per year between 2010 and 2020. If you click on their link of , click on “Economic and Employment Projections” under “Archived”, you’ll see a link to the projections for 2010-2020 at . Table 5 on page 10 lists the projected change in Computer and Mathematical Occupations (15-0000) from 2010 to 2020 as 778,300. Table 4 of the 2014-2024 projections at projects an even lower change of 531,400 jobs from 2014 to 2024. Of course, these include mathematical occupations and some computer occupations which don’t require Computer Science degrees. Still, the 1.2 million number quoted by Microsoft just isn’t there. Am I missing something?


      • I’ve gone ahead and posted everything I have on the claim of 1.4 million computer science jobs with only 400,000 computer science graduates to fill them at . As it turns out, I can find no evidence for EITHER of the numbers! Following is the conclusion:

        > Hence, all of the available evidence is that the 1.4 million computer science-related jobs projection is too high and the 400,000 computer science graduates projection is far to low. And, as just stated, the assumption that only computer science graduates can hold computer science-related jobs has never held in the past and there is no evidence that it will hold in the future.

        By the way, I noticed that Jeb Bush also put the same basic numbers into his book “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution”. So this parroting of unsourced numbers is bipartisan. If anyone should find sources for either of the numbers, please let me know.


  6. I agree with “Staple a green card” – for every Ph.D. in computer science, we should staple a green card. For the rest, we should staple an airline ticket that they pay for back home.


  7. Norm,

    Great site.

    Wanted to point out that the Dice study refers to 23% of professionals getting a raise when switching jobs, not a 23% raise.


  8. Very good article Dr. Matloff. I barely had time to breeze thru it but you had all the major points covered. I especially like your mention of the negative impact on older American STEM workers and the lower quality of work of the H1Bs.

    I do have a question about the first of your proposed solutions:
    “1. The immigration of truly outstanding STEM talents should be facilitated”

    What is your (and others) proposal on how to determine a truly outstanding STEM talent in a foreigner?

    I outline mine in this comment in the NYT editorial thread:

    For a ‘talented’ or ‘best & brightest’ foreigner to be considered for a green card or visa, they should be in these situations:
    1) created/founded/started a company that has already gained traction in the market and US investors are going to invest in it and moving it here would create US jobs. Examples like Stripe, StumbleUpon, etc
    2) created a technology that has significant impact on an industry (encryption, ecommerce, etc) and is a result has created US jobs. Examples like Bitcoin, Bluetooth, etc
    3) A US company is buying their startup company and moving here to the US, thereby creating US jobs
    4) Be hired as an expert (internationally recognized by his/her industry peers around the world for at least 5 yrs after having received advanced degree) to be a critical part of a project that is creating US jobs. The hiring company needs to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that no other American is qualified for the role.
    5) PhD research that results in technology that is bought by US company to create US jobs

    Another thing, I didn’t find TABLE 4. “Percentage change in wages in re-employment after being laid off.” of any help to the argument that older IT workers are getting hit hard(er) as it showed that 40+ tech workers got less of a drop than non-tech workers.


    • We already have criteria for outstanding-ness, in the O-1 visa etc. I think these are basically pretty good, but as mentioned, I would probably broaden them a bit.


  9. Hi Norm,

    I examined the 1.24 million computer occupations openings vs 400k CS graduates “gap” myth in my March 2016 IEEE Computer article, “The STEM Anxiety Business”, if any of your readers would like more information.


    I used the BLS 2012-2022 data in the article, but the BLS 2014-2024 data doesn’t change it materially.

    My feeling is every time this phony stat is used, the reporter should be called out on it to prove the gap exists.


    • Thank you very much for posting the link to your article. It clarifies for me that the number of new jobs includes replacement jobs for current workers who leave the workforce. I’m trying to maintain a list of the online references to this phony stat at so as to keep track of uses that need to be called out. There’s a ton of them so I’m focusing on new references. However, I need to carefully read your article so as to correctly update the analysis.


  10. Hey guys, the “millions of IT job openings” is basic economics – if you project cutting the salary levels by half, you project doubling the number of workers. Have a nice day.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s